Our family was driving east through Iowa, on our way home to Michigan from a spring break getaway ski vacation in Colorado. A car accident was indicated on our GPS a few miles ahead so we took a detour which brought us down a quiet, country road. All around us were open farmed fields dotted with a few homes. Not another car in sight.
I imagined running down this road; I could practically feel the ups and downs under my feet, the burn in my quads and freeness of spirit on the down hills after the charge of the uphill. All blissfully traffic free. Even the different sounds and smells on the open road would engage my senses. While some may see this road as out in the middle of nowhere, I saw this road as an exciting, multi-sensory landscape. I could hardly contain myself from jumping out of the car to experience this road under my feet.
This backroad detour brought me back to a conversation I had not too long ago, when I mentioned that I lived in the rural town. Though not as sparsely populated as this area in Iowa, my hometown has comparatively long stretches of dirt roads with light traffic, expansive open fields, and rolling hills. I never tire of running these roads. The response to my mentioning my hometown was, “Well, there really is nothing out there.”
This stopped me in my tracks. Could we be imagining the same place? How could what this person sees as nothing, be what I experience as bursting with everything?
I was at first offended at that comment, then I reminded myself that was my opinion once upon a time. I grew up in a suburb, with lots of restaurants, traffic and a faster pace of life. Then, in my adult life, I was taken on unexpected detour. I became a parent of a child with special needs. The landscape of my life changed dramatically. If you are looking for a faster-paced way of life, you aren’t going to find that raising a child with Down syndrome. It is a different way of life, a slower-paced way of life.
Driving quickly through this landscape, it’s easy to overlook its intricacies. Yet, when you find yourself in a position of traversing this landscape on foot, one-step-at-a-time, you notice that the fields are not just fields. There are varying grades of elevation. The vegetation has different colors and shapes. You even begin to notice how the leaves waver in the breeze and find it to be the most beautiful thing you have ever seen. And you marvel at this thought. How something so simple, can be so overwhelmingly breathtaking and powerful. What you thought was meaningful begins to change in your mind. When you thought you wanted the fast-pace, you realize, in fact, what you were missing. You become thankful for this detour in life that you once thought you didn’t want to take. You can actually feel life, step-by-step, when before, you were just flying by. What you once thought was nothing, is now bursting with everything.
I do my best to explain that when you simply drive down these roads it’s hard to appreciate the power of natural beauty that is right there in front of your eyes. But, it really is a life that is to be experienced more than it is to be explained. Sometimes you have to get out of the car, and take time to look around, I mean really look around. It is only then you will begin to appreciate what it is you were missing. The intricate feel of wind in your hair, the dryness that tickles your nose, the varying shift of landscape under your feet. The way the sun reflects off of the leaves, or the way the tiger lilies shift in the breeze. It is only then you realized how the different shapes and colors are almost more than your senses can take in. You suddenly become overwhelmed at the natural beauty of it all, and your eyes well with tears. And then you just know. You get it. Nothing is never nothing. Nothing is simply not paying attention. Everything bursts with everything.